After suffering a head injury against Clemson last week, Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey’s status for NC State was up in the air until moments before kickoff. Dungey wasn’t able to go, and Zack Mahoney was named the starter.
While Mahoney threw for a career-high 190 yards, Dungey’s presence was missed in a 35-20 loss to the Wolfpack.
“Obviously we missed Eric a great deal out there. There would have been a lot of things that we could have taken advantage of,” Syracuse head coach Dino Babers said. “As a football player, guys get hurt, and guys come back, and we embrace the ideal of finding a way of finding the next man to step up.”
Early in the matchup, it looked like the Orange offense would roll on despite missing their usual starter. After NC State turned the ball over on downs, the Orange got the ball for the first time on their own 39 yard line. From there, Mahoney put together a steady 61-yard drive that culminated in a rushing touchdown by Dontae Strickland and a 7-0 lead.
Despite the early success, the Syracuse offense soon started to stall out. The next Orange drive ended abruptly when Mahoney threw an interception along the NC State sideline.
On the following possession, a loose ball recovered for a loss by Mahoney and a false start penalty stifled a touchdown opportunity and the Orange had to settle for a field goal.
Trailing 14-10 out of halftime, the Orange received the ball and went three-and-out and NC State immediately marched down the field to take a 21-10 lead.
That’s when Mahoney and the Orange offense finally broke through. On the second play of the next drive, Mahoney found Amba Etta-Tawo on a deep pass for an 81-yard touchdown.
Mahoney brought his team within striking distance again with about 10 minutes left in the game and the Orange trailing 21-20. Connecting with Cornelius for an apparent 34-yard touchdown, Mahoney and the Orange’s hopes were dashed when a penalty for an illegal block erased the play.
Mahoney finished his day with career high 190 yards passing, completing 14 of his 25 passes to go with a touchdown and an interception.
“Zack did a fabulous job handling the blitz, he threw some beautiful deep balls,” Babers said. “But they also heated us up a little bit, and that’s what happens when you have a young signal caller under center.”
Especially one who learned he was starting only moments before kickoff.
“Well, every week we come and compete every day. Austin, Eric and I were all competing throughout the week. Last night, Coach gave me the go ahead, and I started today.” Mahoney said. “As long as you go into the practice week with determination and thinking that you’re going to start and you practice that way when it comes time to the game, it’s all the same.”